Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami features artwork from around the world this spring through May 31, in addition to its tremendous diverse plantings. John Chamberlain’s aluminum sculptures, Sitting Naturally benches and Chapungu sculptures from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe are sure to delight as they are so unique and in such beautiful settings. (See my slide show of the gardens and art).
Eighty-two unique, hand-carved sculptures by African artists depict animals, families, customs, social issues and creatures of legend. Carved from opal stone, cobalt and springstone, these works of art are grouped by theme in Fairchild’s lowlands: Custom and Legend, Family, Nature and Environment, Role of Elders, Role of Women, Social Comment, The Spirit World and Village Life. The sculptures range in height from three to 10 feet and weigh between 600 and 6,000 pounds.
“Each of these sculptures is a unique, one of a kind creation that the artists have produced based on their own ideas and passions,” says Roy Guthrie, Chapungu Curator.
In addition to enjoying the exhibition, visitors and the community can create their own original sculpture with the help of a Chapungu artist in residence, Agnes Nyanhongo, who comes from a family of artists, during a five-day Chapungu workshop held Tuesday through Saturday in a pavilion near the Lowland’s bamboo collection from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
No experience is required. The price is $500 for Garden members and $625 for non-members and includes a sculpting stone from Zimbabwe, a set of tools to keep and instruction. For reservations for the dates March 26 – March 30, April 2 – April 6, April 23 – April 27, May 7 – May 11 and May 21 – May 25 and additional details, call 305-667-1651, ext. 3322.
John Chamberlain's twisted metal sculptures are huge and eye-catching. He almost single-handedly gave automobile metal a place in the history of sculpture, smashing and twisting together a fusion of Abstract Expressionism and Pop sculptural forms created from fenders, fins, bumpers and hoods.
Born in 1927 in Indiana to a 5th generation saloon-keeper, he moved to Chicago at age 4 and was raised by his maternal grandmother. Although he aspired to be a classical musician, he realized he didn’t have the talent so he enlisted in the US Navy in 1941 by saying his age was 18 (he was only 16). After WWII, John entered the Art Institute of Chicago on the GI Bill. He constantly fought with his teachers so he left to become a hairdresser and make-up artist – also to meet girls (he would marry three times). He continued his art studies at Black Mountain College, near Asheville, NC, where he made his first sculpture in 1957.
His initial inspiration was the work of David Roland Smith (1906-1965), a New York abstract expressionist sculptor and painter, best known for creating large steel abstract geometric sculptures. Chamberlain moved to NYC and spent the rest of his career there. Having grown up around saloons, he loved to hang out with Abstract Expressionist and Pop artists at Max’s Kansas City bar and the Cedar Tavern in Manhattan. He lived a flamboyant life and died Dec 21, 2011 in Manhattan.
The four large sculptures displayed at Fairchild are part of Chamberlain’s more recent works, created from 2008 to 2010. They arrived fresh from an exhibition on Park Avenue in New York City where they were displayed in Fall 2012.
Chamberlain’s biomorphic works are made of compressed and twisted industrial aluminum around an inner hollow metal core. They are finished with silver, green or copper color paint. The surface is reflective and texturized so the appearance is altered based on the weather and especially the amount of sunlight. The pieces began as Chamberlain experimented at home with household aluminum foil, which he twisted and shaped like rope and tentacles. His original experimentation with aluminum foil goes back to 1972. Eventually he moved to flexed industrial aluminum to create these eccentric forms.
Using their unique perspectives, artists Gael Appler, Sam Baron, Pedro Barrail, Christophe Côme, Michele Oka Doner, Sebastian Errazuriz and John Paul Philippe each created two benches from various materials in the Sitting Naturally exhibit.
Art at Fairchild is generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Lin Lougheed and Aaron I. Fleischman.
On a different flight of fancy, the new Wings of the Tropics butterfly exhibit in the Clinton Family Conservatory at the Science Village is popular as well and may require a short wait. Butterflies and about three hummingbirds delight with their colorful movements. (Please see this in my other Fairchild Garden slide show linked to the annual Orchid Festival : http://www.examiner.com/slideshow/fairchild-tropical-botanic-garden)
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up, and $12 for children 6-17. Those who walk, bike or take public transportation receive $5 off adult admission and $2 off child admission. Those with a Military ID have free admission, with $20 for their spouses and $10 for their children. For more information and a complete schedule, please visit www.fairchildgarden.org.